Papiss Cisse

Associated Press

Bus carrying Turkish club crashes, killing Czech international Sural

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A mini-bus carrying a number of squad members from Turkish club Alanyaspor crashed just outside the club’s home city of Alanya on Sunday, killing 28-year-old Czech international Josef Sural.

The bus was returning from the club’s match against Kayserispor when the driver reportedly fell asleep at the wheel.

Former QPR and Cardiff City defender Steven Caulker was also reportedly aboard the bus, one of six players other than Sural on board, but none of them were seriously harmed. Former Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse was also aboard the bus, according to Turkish news reports. Also reportedly aboard the bus was Angolan winger Djalma Campos, Brazilian defenders Baiano and Welinton, and Ghanian international Isaac Sackey.

Sural owned 20 caps for the Czech Republic and was a member of their Euro 2016 squad. He scored his only international goal against the Netherlands in a 3-2 win during Euro 2016 qualification.

“Our Czech footballer Josef Sural was gravely injured when our private minibus carrying seven of our footballers had an accident coming back from an away game in Kayseri,” the club posted in a tweet. “Despite the Alanya Anadolu private hospital’s best efforts, Sural couldn’t be saved. May he rest in peace.”

The 28-year-old had just joined Alanyaspor in January, his first foray abroad after spending his entire career inside the Czech professional ranks playing for Sparta Praha, Slovan Liberec, and Zbojovka Brno. He made three starts since joining but was mostly used as a substitute, and was an unused substitute in the 1-1 draw with Kayserispor on Sunday.

Czech FA president Martin Malik said, “I want to express my deepest sympathy to my family and friends. Pepa was a humble man who we will all miss very much. We’ll never forget you.”

What should we expect from Miguel Almiron’s Premier League debut half-season?

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What’s reasonable to expect from Miguel Almiron in his first half season at Newcastle United?

Remember: I wrote reasonable, not realistic. Newcastle smashing its 14-year transfer record to sign the Paraguayan will have supporters thinking big.

[ MORE: Club-by-club grades ]

First things first, Almiron’s first meaningful minutes for Newcastle will be his first serious match action since the MLS Cup Final on Dec. 9. That means there will be some rust on the wiry playmaker who produced 13 goals and 13 assists for the Five Stripes in 2018.

Next: It’s likely that Rafa Benitez views Almiron as that playmaking No. 10 he’s needed, though there’s no guarantee his closest comparison on the Magpies — Ayoze Perez — won’t be a bit more suited to the job while Almiron gets used to the league.

Speaking of which, Perez is a terrific base line for which to judge Almiron. That won’t happen since Perez was a plucked gem from Tenerife while Almiron cost a club record, but follow me here.

The 25-year-old Perez is only a half-year older than Almiron, but arrived Tyneside at the age of 21. Perez also has Almiron by a half-inch.

Perez arrived at Newcastle having torn apart a lesser league, La Liga2, to the tune of 16 goals and 7 assists. He did not come on like a flash, either, with his first six appearances off the bench.

He scored goals in his next three en route to five by New Year’s Day and seven on the Premier League season, where he was deployed by Alan Pardew as an undersized center striker in two-thirds of his matches.

That Newcastle team, as hard as this is to believe, was nearly as offensively wretched as this season’s iteration. Perez was the second-leading goal scorer, behind Papiss Cisse and ahead of a wayward crowd of Moussa Sissoko and Jack Colback (Yes, they were relegated).

Almiron is much more seasoned than Perez, and the Paraguayan’s lesser league of MLS is a lot more physical than La Liga2. Almiron has also been the focal point of a team’s creative center, and will not be thrown off by the responsibility and expectations at a new club. Remember, he cost an MLS expansion team about $8 million.

Benitez may cater to Almiron in a free-ranging role to blood him on the Premier League, ousting Christian Atsu from the lineup instead of Perez at the No. 10.

What’s reasonable, like really reasonable? We’d say a goal — perhaps two given set piece chances — to go with 3-4 assists over his final 14 matches would qualify as a statistical success, but just looking the part and encouraging his owner to back Benitez with similar talent over the summer will be almost as important.

No pressure, kid.

Newcastle makes pivotal goalkeeper’s loan move permanent

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Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez was reportedly chasing a new goalkeeper all last summer, finally getting a starting caliber backstop on loan in January.

That keeper was 29-year-old Martin Dubravka, and that loan from Sparta Prague had an option to buy.

[ MORE: Lewandowski wants to leave Bayern ]

Newcastle has purchased Dubravka and signed him through 2021-22 after an outstanding 12-match stint between the sticks.

Dubravka kept three clean sheets and allowed just one total goal in a trio of wins over Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea.

Here’s Benitez, from NUFC.co.uk:

“Ever since he arrived with us on loan he has shown a fantastic attitude and great work ethic, and of course we have been very impressed with his performances for us on the pitch last season.

“This was one of the key positions we had identified we needed to strengthen and had been concerned about, so it is excellent news that we are able now to sign him on a permanent basis.”

That one fix was as important as any in Newcastle’s second half revival, with Kenedy‘s loan from Chelsea another revelation. A clinical striker, something they’ve lacked in Premier League play dating back to Demba Ba, Loic Remy, and Papiss Cisse‘s early days, would catapult them into a higher table discussion.

Players to watch in the final week of the window

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With all due credit to the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saga, which has replaced the Alexis-Mkhitaryan saga as the saga du semaine in the Premier League, there are other players potentially on the move this week.

Here’s who we think you should keep an eye on as January moves to its conclusion.

[ PL PLAYBACK: On trade deals, and more ]

1) The list should arguably start and end with Jonny Evans, in that whether or not he moves could lay out how much else his current and prospective new club will do in the remainder of the window.

Evans is the sort of player — with respect to Papiss Cisse — that every club needs, and also brings the experience of knowing it could be better and worse from his time winning PL titles at Manchester United and, well, not winning them at West Brom and on loan to Sunderland. He’s 30, not old for a center back, and he’ll be worth every penny.

2) Thinking of Andre Schurrle‘s time at Chelsea has us daydreaming about a similar Chelsea outcast turned reborn Bundesliga star in Kevin De Bruyne (though certainly few are betting on the German to become a Ballon d’Or finalist under Alan Pardew, Rafa Benitez, or Mauricio Pochettino) What’s neat about his case is that his loan move from Borussia Dortmund — and the German club’s potential to pay half the wages if not more — would allow a club who wouldn’t normally get a player of his class to dream a bit. Then again, it could be a bit of “Jese with PL experience.”

3) Aleksandar Mitrovic‘s wild nature has caused his status to shrink deep into the recesses of Rafa Benitez’s mind, which is a shame because Newcastle really could use him, and he could be a breakout forward at the World Cup this summer. Maybe West Brom needs to trade Salomon Rondon for “Mitro” straight up so two baffling PL strike cases can get fresh starts. Or maybe…

4 and 5) David Moyes should call up Newcastle United and offer reported Chelsea target Andy Carroll or reported everyone else target Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is a like-for-like swap. Trade deals, after all, are the new norm, yes?

Premier League roundup: Leicester gets its crown; Sunderland rises

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It was a day for coronation in the Midlands, but desolation for some of the Northeast.

[ MORE: Middlesbrough joins Burnley in automatic promotion ]

The majority, however, was decidedly livelier following Sunderland’s defeat of Chelsea and Middlesbrough’s promotion to the Premier League.

Newcastle, well, that’s another story, one we’ll tell over the course of Saturday’s Premier League roundup.

Leicester City 3-1 EvertonRECAP

Jamie Vardy returned from suspension with a roar, scoring twice and missing a penalty kick that would’ve given him a hat trick. Andy King had a goal and an assist for Leicester, which somehow was not distracted by a glorious performance from tenor Andrea Bocelli. Leicester led 1-0 before the entire crowd had settled into the King Power Stadium, and led 3-0 before Kevin Mirallas put one home for Everton.

Aston Villa 0-0 Newcastle UnitedRECAP

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

If and when Newcastle United is relegated to the Championship for the second time in a decade, it can point to the fact that it gave Aston Villa two of its 17 points through 37 weeks of the season. Rafa Benitez‘s unit couldn’t find a goal with Papiss Cisse up top, and a more lively Aleksandar Mitrovic missed three opportunities to provide a winner against an already-relegated Villa side which has allowed 72 goals this season.

Newcastle outshot Villa 9-2, but few will care about anything other than the scoreless result. Woof. Villa was also rife with protest against owner Randy Lerner, with inflatable balls strewn about the pitch.

Sunderland 3-2 ChelseaRECAP

The Black Cats came back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits before Jermain Defoe belted Sunderland back into safety with a match-in-hand on Newcastle and a 4-point lead on Norwich City. Wahbi Khazri and Fabio Borini also scored for Sunderland, but Defoe will never buy a drink at a Sunderland pub again; He’s got 15 of the Black Cats’ 40 goals.

Norwich City 0-1 Manchester UnitedRECAP

Juan Mata kept United’s Top Four hopes alive while essentially dooming the Canaries. Norwich is three points behind Newcastle and four back of Sunderland with two matches to play. The victors, meanwhile, are in a mix of teams hoping to finish third, four points back of Arsenal, three of Man City and four ahead of West Ham. All four sides have two matches this week.

Bournemouth 1-1 West Bromwich AlbionRECAP

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - MAY 07:  Artur Boruc of Bournemouth saves the penalty of Craig Gardner of West Brom during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and West Bromwich Albion at the Vitality Stadium on May 7, 2016 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

Artur Boruc made a remarkable pair of saves off a Craig Gardner penalty attempt, and Matt Ritchie scored for Bournemouth as the Cherries erased a 1-0 deficit brought about by Salomon Rondon’s early header.

West Ham United 1-4 Swansea CityRECAP

West Ham picked a bad day to have a stinker at home, going down 3-0 to Swansea and conceding (probably) far too much ground in the race for the Top Five. Andre Ayew, Wayne Routledge, Bafetimbi Gomis and Ki Sung-yeung put balls in the West Ham goal, with an own goal the Irons’ only route into the Swansea cage.

Crystal Palace 2-1 Stoke CityRECAP

Veteran midfielder Charlie Adam gave the visitors a 26th minute lead before Dwight Gayle scored a pair of second half tallies to lift Alan Pardew‘s side to a win.